About Colour/ “Chroma”

Colour/ “Chroma” is an ongoing project (since 2010) which seeks to work with artists, scientists, people and spaces to explore the role of colour in sensory experience.

The project is inspired by Derek Jarman’s text Chroma: A Book of Colour – June ’93, a text responding to the author’s encroaching blindness due to AIDS related complications. A painter, film maker, writer and gay rights activist, Jarman’s exploration of colour touches upon history, literature, philosophy, psychology, religion, science, art, and personal memory. Diagnosed as HIV+ in 1986, Chroma was one of his last projects prior to his death in 1994.

There are three key strands to the Colour/”Chroma” project: the first, is to engage a wider audience with themes and concepts of art history and visual culture; the second, to further explore the relationship between arts and science; the third, open up conversations about our understanding and perception of sensory impairment.

 email: jca.curator [at] gmail.com


Brilliant, gorgeous, painted, gay,

Vivid, flaunting, tearaway,

Glowing, flaring, lurid, loud,

Screaming, Shrieking, marching, proud,

Mellow, matching, deep and sombre,

Pastel, sober, dead and dull,

Constant, colourful, chromatic,

Party-coloured and prismatic,

Kaleidoscopic, variegated,

Tattooed, dyed, illuminated,

Daub and scumble, dip and dye,

High-keyed colour, colour lie.

[Derek Jarman, Chroma: A Book of Colour- June ’93]




  1. Why do you not mention the Biblical references to gemstones and their colours,,, and if known, their ‘magical’ properties and supposed healing powqers.

    1. Thanks for your comment Len – yes, I’m interested in exploring all angles on colour – art, science, history, mythology, religion … I haven’t looked at specific biblical references, so thanks for this suggestion.

  2. Wondered if you knew the children’s book Hailstones and Halibut Bones from 1961 which is about the emotional properties of colour – I only came across it as I bought and old 16mm film to test a new projector and it turned out to be the most beautiful 1970s animation of the book, it reminded me of Jarman when I watched it…

    1. I didn’t, but wow – thank you. it combines my two interests of childhood and colour. We want to include imagery in the demonstration-performance, so this might be an interesting and beautiful place to start…


  3. I recommend ‘I Send You this Cadmium Red’ by John Berger & John Christie – a series of letters between the two art historians about colours. It draws you in as if you’re there with them, then makes you want to butt in and ask them questions…

    We’re hoping to get to the WAG on saturday for the event



    1. Yes … thanks Derek. Artist Mark Anstee also mentioned that to me last week! I’ll be taking a look at it tomorrow. Hope you can make it to the event …



  4. Really enjoyed the lecture today, very inspiring. I haven’t read ‘Chroma’ (yet!) but was wondering what you think of Jarman’s ideas of colour in relation to pink. Jenna I think you said that pink was a safer, lighter version of red. I was wondering whether you think this, or whether this was something that Jarman said? (I ask because I’m writing an essay for my MA on pink in Proust and hope that you/he don’t believe that pink is just a weaker shade of red!)

    Thanks for a great afternoon,

    1. Hi Rosie,

      We can have a chat about this (pop into the postgrad office soon – email me) … I think people tend to think of pink as a ‘safer, lighter red’, but it holds a far more complicated status historically and socially….


  5. I’m really delighted to have happened upon this blog, my life experiences are marked by changes in the colours I am drawn to. Since I came to Japan my whole sense of colour has been engulfed in Black. I have been making a series of works all exploring this intense feeling of blackness. I will read Chroma. Thanks!


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